Spectacular weather, time-lapsed

This film can be a learning opportunity for firefighters.

Mike Olbinski spent months putting together these time-lapse videos of storms, mostly in Arizona.

I hope wildland firefighters find this interesting, informative, and see it as a learning tool. Keep in mind that it was a storm with very strong outflow winds that caused the fire behavior leading to the deaths of 19 firefighters in Arizona on June 30, 2013.

The film includes shots of impressive outflow winds  — examples are at 2:08 and 4:45. It is rare to see this enormous threat to firefighters so graphically illustrated.

The video and text below are from Mr. Olbinski’s Vimeo page.

I recommend full screen for viewing it.


Monsoon IV (4K) from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.

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Blu-Ray discs available.
Music by Peter Nanasi, find Peter’s work here:
Follow Mike: Twitter |  Facebook  | Instagram
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Early on this summer when I found myself down by Santa Rosa, AZ watching a gorgeous hail core fall on the stunning desert landscape, and then later that day staring at a haboob with a stacked shelf cloud above it near the border of Mexico, I had a feeling it would be a unique monsoon. It’s funny how every year is different. That’s the beauty of chasing the summer storm season out here in the desert southwest. You never know what’s going to happen or what you might see.

This year I ventured far and wide. Phoenix never saw a good dust storm all summer, but I still was able to capture a few good ones in southwest portions of the state. The cover photo for this film was halfway to Yuma standing in the middle of Interstate 8 watching an ominous wall of dust roll down the highway towards me with lightning flashing behind it. It was an incredible moment.

One bonus this summer was a few successful chases up at the Grand Canyon. Finally. A couple of gorgeous sunsets, rain dumping into the Canyon, lightning at night, Milky Way…it all worked out and I’m stoked for the footage I captured there that made it into this film. I also ventured over into New Mexico twice to chase some wonderful, plains-like structure to end the monsoon this year.

All told I covered about 13,000 miles and chased as far west as Desert Center, CA, as far east as Wilna, NM and as far north as Tonelea, AZ. And two great storms down in Organ Pipe National Monument, which is only about 10 miles from Mexico.

I loved what I saw this year. It felt so unique. I found myself submerged in cacti and desert flora a few times with stunning light and structure. Explored places in New Mexico I hadn’t seen before. Smiled at the gasps of amazement from the crowds at the Canyon when a lightning bolt would strike. Finally discovered that the Santa Rosa area is a hotbed for supercell activity. And while it didn’t make it on time-lapse, I captured a brief tornado over downtown Phoenix!

So…the film. So much effort and energy went into it. I shot over 110,000 frames of time-lapse and likely only half of it ended up in the final cut. The editing has taken me weeks and even right up until Monday evening I was still fixing and tweaking. The music is all custom, thanks to the amazing work of Peter Nanasi. PLEASE check out his website and buy his albums! I love how we work together to develop a track that seems to fit exactly with the clips I capture. I am so incredibly blessed that his work crossed my path.

A quick thank-you to the workshop guests I had this summer. You guys were amazing troopers, staying out to all hours and being around for some awesome storms. In fact, I am not sure that I would have even been on the shelf cloud in the final scene of this film if it hadn’t been for my workshop. Thank you, thank you!

As always though, what made it fun was sharing a lot of it with my kiddos. They made the trip up to the Grand Canyon with me once and it was such a blast of an experience. Asher joined me in New Mexico one day, just he and I, and I got to see his face light up when he captured his first ever lightning strike on video on his little iPad.

To my wife Jina…we’ve come a long, long way since we started this storm chasing journey years ago. It’s not been easy all the time, especially with me being on the road so much between April and October these days. But we’ve slowly figured things out and I’m unbelievably grateful to you for your support and belief in what we’re doing together.

To everyone else…thank you for your continued support of my work. I am constantly blown-away at the kindness that you show to me.

And now…I hope you enjoy this film.

Technical Details:

I used two Canon 5DSR’s along with a Canon 11-24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 135mm and Sigma Art 50mm. Manfrotto tripods. The final product was edited in Lightroom with LR Timelapse, After Effects and Premiere Pro.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills.

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One thought on “Spectacular weather, time-lapsed”

  1. Just stunningly beautiful! What a great find! Fascinating perspective also – how this is useful to firefighter protection. It was just that sort of storm that suddenly jacked the fire near Mayer, AZ this year – they come on so fast with so much wind, sometimes capable of snapping in half huge trees with two-foot diameter tree trunks. (Actually saw that happen once, not rumor.) The outer cell edges have only a few drops of water but with gusting wind and a lot of lightning. So the opening of summer monsoon season after months of dry heat is welcomed with a mixture of relief and dread – too much at once: rain, lightning, dry, wind. To tie in with this past week’s news posted here, if recollection is correct, Yarnell-area residents were evacuated from the tinder-dry and burning fire areas to a few miles away to Prescott only to find torrential rain and flash flooding. As if two completely different worlds, yet so close.
    Appreciating your site! Not in the profession, but check in from time to time and always find something interesting and informative. Thanks!

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